|Who needs a ShouldersBack |
when you've got one of these?
I have a secondary reason for being so happy to take a step back this winter. My confidence, never great to start with, has been severely shaken since my fall. Sure, I can tell myself to “Suck it up,” or “Get over it already,” but that doesn't really work. I can also visualize perfect courses and good outcomes until the cows come home. I know I “CAN” go out and jump a 3’ course, and can remember times when I’ve done it quite well, but at the moment, I am not just not comfortable doing it.
So, I am putting my armchair psychology degree, obtained through my one college course (decades ago) numerous self-help books, hours of Internet research and a couple of Dr. Phil episodes, to work and have used my problem solving skills to outline a plan: I’m taking a step back until I feel comfortable going forward.
In essence, by working on the things I can control, such as my position, balance and strength in the saddle, and eye for distances, I feel I am minimizing my risk, enlarging my comfort zone, and better equipping myself to succeed when I AM ready to move back up. Make sense? It does to me.
Enter “Crops as Props.” The last couple of lessons have involved riding either with a dressage whip behind my back and through my elbows, or holding a crop in my hands between my thumbs and index finger. The whip behind the back thing has been great in terms of bringing my shoulders back, making me use my hands less, and forcing me to use my seat, legs, and core more (OUCH. Core? What core?) When we jump cavaletti and small fences, it prevents me from picking at Sugar with my reins in hopes of micromanaging to a distance, which pleases her no end, and since I can’t over-use my hands, I’m forced to utilize my other aids and work on my balance.
The lesson after the dressage whip lesson was the crop held horizontally between the hands under the thumbs lesson. Yes, it helps keep the hands still and together and eliminates piano hands, but even more importantly, it forces you to really rely on using your seat and leg aids when turning. One exercise had us spiraling in and out on a circle while cantering - easier said than done. Then we cantered in a small circle over a cavaletti. Holy crap – you may THINK you’re pretty effective with your aids, but these exercises will tell you in a heartbeat if you really are. The funniest part was when we were jumping a small course and had to do a rollback turn: I’m guessing I looked like the Captain of the Titanic trying to turn thr ship away from the iceberg. Not a pretty sight.
Trust me, these lessons are ugly as sin while they’re happening, but after each of these "Back to Basics" lessons my next ride has been great since my position and aids are stronger and more effective. While hacking the other day I did the canter circle over the cavaletti exercise and found myself getting 90% of my distances, landing on the correct lead consistently and maintaining a smoother, more consistent rhythm.
Coincidence? I think not. And the confidence thing? Slowly growing…